At various points in his childhood, Jack Prelutsky
wanted to be an opera singer, a baseball player,
a fighter pilot, and a cowboy. He never, however,
envisioned being a poet, and in fact he failed several
college English classes. But his love of words and
happy talent for composing delightful rhyme has its
rewards: He's now the first U.S. Children's Poet
Laureate. His books include The New Kid on the Block,
The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, and The Frogs
Wore Red Suspenders. His most recent book is
My Dog May Be a Genius.
What is your idea of a perfect teacher?
Someone who's more interested in nurturing
his or her students, treating each of them as
individuals, recognizing their unique gifts and
abilities, and getting the best out of them,
rather than simply sticking to a routine syllabus.
What was your most memorable school
It's hard to pick one, but I do remember playing
a Christmas tree in a second-grade production,
and having to suddenly run off stage to
go to the bathroom, leaving the stage treeless.
What was the low point of your school
Again, it's hard to pick one. I had a big
argument with my fourth-grade teacher over
a math problem. I told her I didn't want to be
in her class anymore, and stormed out of the
room and went to the office, where I applied
for a transfer. Nobody had ever done that before,
so my parents were summoned to school
to sort out the whole business. Years later, my
teacher's son became one of my best friends.
Did you go to public school, or private
Public school. I grew up on welfare and didn't
even know private schools existed. There
certainly weren't any in my neighborhood. My
public school was in the shadow of elevated
train tracks, so it was a pretty noisy place.
Where did you fit in your schools' social
I was little and skinny, the shortest boy in my
class, and had big buckteeth and jug ears.
I tried to make up for these shortcomings with
a smart mouth. I was unsuccessful, and was
at the bottom of just about any hierarchy you
What was your favorite subject?
I remember loving history and geography.
Curiously, I was not particularly interested in
If you could change one thing about education
in America, what would it be?
I would take money that's spent on senseless
and tragic wars and spend it on education. It
sounds trite, but children are the future, and
deserve everything we can give them.
What is impossible to learn in school?
How to deal with all the sinkers and curveballs
that life throws you.
What should they teach that they don't
Schools should teach how to be a good green
citizen and take responsibility for our planet.
So far, it's the only one we have.
What did you learn today?
I've been teaching myself computer graphics,
and today I figured out how to wrap a bird
around a cylinder or a sphere.
What did you teach?
I tried to teach the crows outside my window
to shut up. Needless to say, they ignored me.
What is in your dream lunch box?
A large antipasto with plenty of imported prosciutto
and marinated artichoke hearts, a bowl
of San Francisco cioppino, and my mother's
baked macaroni and cheese that I loved when
I was in elementary school. There should be
salt-and-pepper chicken wings from my favorite
Chinese restaurant in Seattle. Also, I'd like to
wash it all down with a genuine New York egg
If you wrote a textbook, what would it be
Actually, I just wrote a sort-of textbook for kids
about writing poems called Pizza, Pigs, and
Poetry: How to Write a Poem.
If the prom were tomorrow, whom would you
I'd take my wife, Carolynn, partly because I'd
really want to, and partly because I'm sure
she'd be mad at me if I didn't.